Friday, April 3, 2015


I don't think I've missed a year attending DIFFA's Dining by Design event since we started participating back in 2004. We've been table designers, invited guests for the dining event, and now voyeurs walking through the maze of tables at Pier 92. The event is now simultaneously held with the Architectural Digest Show. Attendance at the show gets you a free entrance to into the Dining by Design event space, the cocktail party and dining event are separate with entrance fees of $200 and $500 per person respectively.
This is the first year that the event has been relocated to a separate venue since the pairing with the Architectural Digest Show. I wasn't fond of the space although I had to travel through it during daylight hours. Perhaps at night, when the main events occurred, the curtains dividing the space and the large windows open to the view of all the floating debris in the Hudson wouldn't have been so visible or disturbing.
When we started out with the event prominent designers were more involved in sponsoring their own tables. Maybe because the costs were becoming so high to produce a table, or the fact that the entry fees have escalated to a level where a sponsor needs to get involved, or worse that the cause is losing its cache, the participation is more big brand driven than it was when it started out.
Given that, sponsorship by industry biggies has made for a very professional show. Ralph Lauren chose to focus on their line of paints where the paint cans were tucked into shelves in brick walls.
Tarps fastened to the walls, ladders stacked in corners and exposed light bulbs suspended on cords gave the entire space a feel of a very exclusive storage room clandestinely set for an elegant Prohibition dinner.
Anthropologie brought forth the mystery of a romantic forest with dinner served under a canopy of surreal blue flowers and suspended candles floating in glass hurricanes.
Who wouldn't want to lounge on the banquettes in Benjamin Moore's café designed by Tyler Wisler. The soft green tufted seats and Parisian wicker café chairs were the perfect setting for coffee and romance.
Architectural Digest has been one of the main supporters of Dining by Design for the past several years. This year their table designed by event planner, Bronson van Wyck, was inspired by tented French follies. The tent was draped in stripped fabric and the back walls were lined with over 10,00 Delft tiles. These are the kind of touches a brand like Architectural Digest can pull in in the form of favors from its friends.
The very sartorial Corey Damen Jenkins designed the table for Beacon Hill where he turned the element of proportion upside down using floor lamps as his centerpieces. Oriental panels with exotic birds flew around the perimeter of the room
encompassing a table decked out in rich gold tones and emerald green.
Kravet produced a two-sided space designed by Hunt Slonem with Gothic chairs set around rounds and the walls covered in whimsical bunny paintings. It was a riot of Spring and Easter, pastels and tulips, and a precursor to their new line of fabric.
Perkins + Will took the minimalist route with their table covered with ripped and folded paper,
on the floor, over head and all over the table
I don't remember DIFFA turning the event into a competition in previous years but this year there was a designated winner, The New York Design Center. This year their table was designed by Marks & Frantz, two women with a flair for the dramatic.
Their history as set designers for film and television helped to create the Moulin Rouge inspired Victorian room.
Another winning design went to the student group from The New York School of Interior Design. Having mentored one of the student design groups in the past I know that one of the tasks they need to conquer is defining their space with a limited budget.
These students made use of every penny with a clever envelope of slated boards and an Asian influenced bottom lit table.
Even the Canadians got in the act this year with their ode to Ottawa. Set in theater marquee lights spelling out O-T-T-A-W-A it looked like a travel postcard right out of the forties.
David Rockwell, Chair Emeritus for DIFFA and principle of the Rockwell Group, not only offered a table for the event but during the public viewing he had a chef making and distributing small tastings of his culinary prowess free to anyone willing to stand in line.
The element of camouflage in fabric was one of the more intriguing tables by Echo where everything including its occupants was swathed in the same fabric. From plate to table to chair to chandelier to walls, not an element of the space was left untouched by the pattern of leaves and vines on a raspberry sea.
I fear AIDS fundraising may becoming harder and harder to generate now that there are regiments in place to help those who can afford it to live close to normal lives. But until a real cure is found there still exists a need to educate those who think themselves immortal and those in places where treatments aren't available. Lets hope that Dining by Design can hold on until they really aren't needed anymore.

Marche aux Puces, 1948
Willy Ronis, photographer
Represented by Jackson Fine Art, Atlanta

1 comment:

  1. I happened to be lucky that my friend couldn't find a date for an event so he generously took me with him, which happened to be one of the best experience for me in recent times. I was lucky enough to see this live music nyc place. If you get a chance to check this out please do so.